The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed BCCI to shift all the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches after 30 April out of Maharashtra observing that the plight of drought victims cannot be ignored.
"It will be better if the IPL matches are held outside Maharashtra" the High Court said.
This means that six matches in Pune, four in Mumbai and three in Nagpur will have to be moved outside the state. BCCI has been given 15 days to make the necessary logistical arrangements. This means only six more matches will be played in Maharashtra now, three in Mumbai and three in Pune.
During the hearing, BCCI told the court that it will not be feasible to shift IPL matches out of Pune so late in the day, with the tournament already underway.
BCCI had also added that Mumbai and Pune team franchises are willing to give Rs 5 crore each towards CM drought relief fund, in response to the court's earlier request.
On Tuesday, the HC had asked BCCI whether it could shift IPL matches out of Pune due to the severe water crisis in Maharashtra even as the cricket board said it would procure treated sewage water for maintenance of pitches in Mumbai and Pune.
A bench of Justices V M Kanade and M S Karnik, hearing a PIL by NGO Loksatta Movement challenging use of large quantities of water in stadiums at a time when the state was reeling under severe drought conditions, had asked the BCCI to respond. The judges also asked the board whether it can contribute to the Chief Minister's drought relief fund.
Nine matches have been planned in Pune and eight in Mumbai, where the opening match was held on 9 April at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, the BCCI's counsel told the court.
Three matches are slated to be held in Nagpur, and IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab has agreed to shift them to Mohali or elsewhere if the HC tells it, he said.
As the BCCI said it had supplied 40 lakh litres of water to stadiums per day for IPL tournaments so far, the judges asked whether it was ready to supply the same quantity to water-starved villages in and around Pune.
During the hearing, the Cricket Board counsel Rafiq Dada informed the bench that BCCI had tied up with Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) to procure treated sewage water for IPL matches to be played in Mumbai and Pune.
Everyday, 7-8 tankers of treated sewage water would be supplied to the stadiums, Dada said, adding use of treated sewage water should be encouraged because after treating it is released into the sea and goes wasted now, he said.
"In this case, instead of discharging treated sewage water into the sea, we are using it in the stadiums," the BCCI counsel said.
The bench also asked RWITC to give an undertaking whether it would supply treated sewage water for the ground maintenance in Pune.
The HC had lambasted the BCCI during the last hearing on the use of huge quantities of water for the pitches. The BCCI Counsel said that after the High Court pulled up the cricket Board for using water in stadiums it has taken the issue very seriously.
During the last hearing in the matter on 7 April, the court had declined to stay the IPL opening match on 9 April in Mumbai, as sought by the PIL. The court had then come down heavily on the state government questioning its seriousness in tackling the situation.
The judges had asked the government and the Municipal Corporation to file separate affidavits, stating whether the water supplied to stadiums during the IPL matches was potable or non-potable.
The judges also asked both the authorities to inform whether they had formulated any policy for supply of potable and non-potable water to Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan and other cities in Maharashtra.